Derbyshire on Iraq
Fresh from a scathing review of National Review colleague Ramesh Ponnuru's latest book, John Derbyshire appears ready to further rattle the cages at NR by apologizing for his support of the war in Iraq. Derbyshire says he supported the war for both visceral and practical reasons, but that the dismal and faulty attempts at nation-building have cost the US so much, in blood, treasure and strategic position, that any value the US acheived by destroying Saddam's regime has been lost.
One reason I supported the initial attack, and the destruction of the Saddam regime, was that I hoped it would serve as an example, deliver a psychic shock to the whole region. It would have done, if we’d just rubbled the place then left. As it is, the shock value has all been frittered away. Far from being seen as a nation willing to act resolutely, a nation that knows how to punish our enemies, a nation that can smash one of those ramshackle Mideast despotisms with one blow from our mailed fist, a nation to be feared and respected, we are perceived as a soft and foolish nation, that squanders its victories and permits its mighty military power to be held to standoff by teenagers with homemade bombs—that lets crooks and bandits tie it down, Gulliver-like, with a thousand little threads of blackmail, trickery, lies, and petty violence.While Derbyshire's apology will doubtless not be echoed by too many of his NR compatriots, I suspect he is correct when he says many of them are secretly thinking the same thing. But Derbyshire rises far above anyone currently writing for NR when he explains, clearly and without any PC-offuscation, by "democratizing Iraq" must fail (as it has failed in East Timor, recently too):
Just ask yourself: Given that Iran is the real looming threat in that region, are we better placed now to deal with that threat than we would have been absent an Iraq war? If we could ask President Ahmadinejad whether he thinks we are better placed, what would his honest answer be?
We are not controlling events in Iraq. Events in Iraq are controlling us. We are the puppet; the street gangs of Baghdad and Basra are the puppet-masters, aided and abetted by an unsavory assortment of confidence men, bazaar traders, scheming clerics, ethnic front men, and Iranian agents. With all our wealth and power and idealism, we have submitted to become the plaything of a rabble, and a Middle Eastern rabble at that. Instead of rubbling, we have ourselves been rabbled. The lazy-minded evangelico-romanticism of George W. Bush, the bureaucratic will to power of Donald Rumsfeld, the avuncular condescension of Dick Cheney, and the reflexive military deference of Colin Powell combined to get us into a situation we never wanted to be in, a situation no self-respecting nation ought to be in, a situation we don’t know how to get out of. It’s not inconceivable that, with a run of sheer good luck, we might yet escape without too much egg on our faces, but it’s not likely. The place we are at is surely not a place anyone in 2003 wanted us to be at—not even Vic Davis Hanson.
Since the Iraq war was obviously a gross blunder, is it time for those of us who cheered on the war to offer some kind of apology? Here we are—we, the United States—in our fourth year of occupying that sinkhole, and it looks pretty much like the third year, or the second. Will the eighth year of our occupation, or our twelfth, look any better? I know people who will say yes, but I no longer know any who will say it with real conviction. It’s a tough thing, to admit you were wrong. It’s way tough if you’re a big-name pundit with a reputation to preserve. For those of us down at the bottom of the pundit pecking order, the stakes aren’t so high. I, at any rate, am willing to eat some crow and say: I wish I had never given any support to this fool war.
So why am I eating crow? Because I think it was foolish of me to suppose that the administration would act with the punitive ruthlessness I hoped to see. The rubble-and-out approach was not one that this administration, or perhaps any administration in the present state of our culture, would be willing to pursue. The universalist dogmas that rule unchallenged in our media and educational institutions have fixed their grip on our foreign policy, too. When the Founders of our nation said “all men” they had in mind Christian Anglo-Saxon men. Our leaders, though, want to bring the whole world under the scope of those grand Lockeian principles.Baghdad is not Minneapolis with palm trees. The people who live there are not Minnesotans. Their cultural and genetic legacy are not the same as the men who drafted the US constitution and whose descendants have successfully maintained it for more than two centuries. Assuming that Iraqis could be force-fed a societal template for which they are culturally and hereditarily discinlined is the cause of the present mess in Iraq, and is the folly of current US foreign and domestic policy.
Perhaps this will work, or perhaps it won’t. My belief is, and always has been, that it won’t. My fault was in not grasping the scale of the administration’s multiculturalist ambitions. (Of which, to be fair to them, they had given plenty of hints, and even one or two frank declarations of intent.) George W. Bush believes that, to borrow and adjust a line from the colonel in Full Metal Jacket: “Inside every Middle East Muslim there is an American trying to get out.” The effort to stabilize Iraq, and the reluctance to just leave the Iraqis to fight each other among the rubble, followed inevitably from that belief, which is, according to me, a false belief. I see all that now. I didn’t see it then. I am sorry.